Wrong Number

Did you know there are 5.13 billion mobile phone numbers in operation throughout the world.

This means there is a desperate shortage of individual numbers. Due to ongoing demand OFCOM has allowed the system providers to re-use old numbers. The reserve of numbers are harvested primarily from the use-it or lose-it pool of pay as you go numbers. OFCOM says these numbers must lie dormant for 12 months before re-use. The phone companies have habit of only waiting 90 days.

The downside of the re allocations is you never know the circumstances of the “abandoned” number. A recent experience is my wife’s reallocated number when she joined a new provider. It had been previously acquired by several Chinese marketing companies who rang incessantly with automatic messages in mandarin leaving a message if you don’t answer, and ring back in an hour if you dismiss the call.

Just add them to your block caller list was the advice. But the beggars are wise to this. They overcome the ‘withheld number’ or blocked call and ring from a fictitious mobile number, every time they call. Blocking the number is futile.

My suggestion was to use Google translate to construct a reply in Mandarin suggesting that the Chinese guys ring a few call centres in India who would welcome the chance to have someone answer the phone. Unfortunately this did’t work.

A call to the mobile provider, ‘who were very busy but my call was important to them’, told me if gruff terms that I could either pay them £25 for a new number or get a crime number from the police. Now as you can guess I rather felt the police crime reporting chaps would also be a bit busy and such a call would be way down their list of things to do. Another call to the phone guys; a heated debate, a gruff response, a request to speak to their manager. You get the drift. Anyway after a spell on hold listening to music which I always relate to being on hold with this operation (they also provide the broadband on narrowband principle) and suddenly the lady was back ‘the manger was very busy couldn’t come to the phone’ but my call was important to them – and a new number issued free of charge.

The moral in this situation is perhaps OFCOM could enforce the mobile guys to somehow clean the re-used number, goodness knows if this is technically possible, or else scrap the £25 charge of the number proves to be hacked within say 6 months. In the meantime my wife’s previous number will sit for 90 days before being allocated to some unsuspecting customer who will start getting calls from Chinese call centres. And the cycle continues.

Alistair Owens

The meandering thoughts of someone with too much time on his hands. Tending to see the obscure and irrelevant in most events I have been forced to record this by family members as a means of diverting attention away from them. But I see their plan.

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